Father, I miss your wisdom.
All my life you demanded I live up to expectation. To be the one prepared to take the reins from you. From the moment of my arrival in this world, the burden was placed upon me. I was expected to be the one to take up the reins. To be your chosen, honourable heir. To be my brother’s keeper. To step into my birth right.
I was your scion.
I visit you every year since you died, Sojiro Shimada. It is fraught with risk and danger and still I come.
My father, I know you loved both your sons, but for very different reasons. I was your pride. Your first-born. The one who would take over the empire. I have it on account that following my birth, you celebrated for a full week. And yet for all that, I cannot recall a single moment of affection. No kind words, no look of pride or even love. You are too much like your mother, Hanzo. Your manner too soft. Your mood too easy to fall into introspection. Your aim, boy, is not true.
Perhaps they were words spoken to build character. To make me the best version of myself that I could be. All I remember was the endless sting of disappointment.
But there were times, Father, rare though they may have been, when I caught on your face the glint of something akin to pride. The day I first called forth and commanded the Shimada dragons. The pleasure it brought you to see that small boy struggling for control of that power, to then accomplish it was writ large upon your face. For me, a son who yearned for approval, for a kind word, that expression was the most glorious of things.
And there were times, too, when you would sit with me and impart the pearls of wisdom that I have held so close to my chest. Simple things.
Ah, my father. There is beauty, as you told me, in simplicity.
So if I was your pride, then Genji was most certainly your joy. He was spared your anger. Not for him, your disapproval. To him, you gave your fondness and your affect ion. You said, once, how you wished that Genji, your little Sparrow, was the eldest and that it was not beyond your powers to change who you selected as your heir.
I was never as jealous as I should have been. I loved my brother too much. Genji was always the light to my shadow. The humour to my gravity. We were as different as night and day, as far apart from one another in personality that even now I question our shared heritage. But you charged me with ensuring his safety. Father, I still remember the day you came into my room, reeking of sake, with that squalling bundle in your arms.
He is your brother, Hanzo. You must guide and protect him. Always.
And so I did. With the ferocity of a wolf, I ensured he was cared for and when our training paths diverged, I still watched over him as he practised for endless hours with his swords. His skill was something in which I found every reason to feel reassured that I was carrying out my task well.
But you, Father. You destroyed all my work. You indulged his every whim. Forgave his every transgression and there were many of those. Too many to count and each that little more damning than the last. You spoiled him and I paid the price.
Do you know that, Father? From wherever it is you have gone now? Do you look down upon your eldest son and rejoice that he showed the tenacity to do what had to be done for the furtherment of your empire? Or do you weep in the knowledge that your sons turned upon one another? Either way, it matters little now. Things are changing. I am no longer heir to the clan. I cannot put my all into something that has forced such heartbreak upon me. So I have fallen out of favour and thus I must continue my journey alone. I am outcast and disgraced.
I have no family, there is no guidance… no longer can I shelter behind the protection of the clan, for they have put a price upon my head and will kill me on sight. Already I have thwarted several assassination attempts and I do not imagine the clan will stop until I am dead.
I am lost without my brother. For all I was ashamed of him at the end for his wayward and irresponsible behaviour, for all I wished to see him punished for his acts, it was never my intention to kill him. It was a choice he forced upon me. Goading me into it, saying in what was very much your voice that I was too soft around the edges.
I proved him wrong. The greatest warriors are forged in the fires of regret, so they say, but it is little compensation for losing my brother. Without him, I am but part of a whole. Without him, I am no more than another broken, forgotten man, shattered by his death.
With every death, you assured me, comes honour.
With honour, redemption.
Now, as I journey alone, I strive to find either of these things in my life. For not to try is the ultimate failing and whatever else I may be, whatever the clan may say, I am – and always will be – a Shimada.